Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2009

The icon of the nativity: an explanation

CHRISTMAS DAY 2009 I’d like this morning to look at an icon: it is the icon of the nativity. And I’d like to look at it because it seems to capture so much of the Christmas story. Just a very brief words about icons. They are not meant to be a photograph of the event or person. They are images which are meant to bring out the inner meaning of the event – they show us the event from the perspective of heaven. And they are very stylised, and for those who have not seen this sort of thing before, at first they look very odd to us. So here it is: the icon of the Nativity – It is 600 years old, and was painted in north Russia, in Novgorod. 1. It tells the story Far removed from our sentimentalised versions. It is a background wilderness. Mary is the dominant figure, but she is not the central figure. She has just given birth and is reclining on the cloth. The central figure is the baby, surrounded by the cattle, and I note that Mary takes her shape from the shape of the child. The baby is

Unlikely Hero: a baby

UNLIKELY HEROES Today we look at an unlikely hero: a baby Now I realise that babies are astonishingly special I did get in big trouble one Christmas time, many years ago, when I described a new born baby as looking like a shrunken Buddha. And one of the ways our society deals with Christmas is to strip the story of any reference to God, and simply focus on children. Christmas is for children: Take nativity plays. Don’t get me wrong. I love nativity plays. One of the problems of the three tier school system is that they don’t do nativity plays in Middle schools. So age 8 is the last time our children will do a nativity play But, you have to be honest and admit that the plot line for most nativity plays is pretty thin. ‘Yes’, says the producer, “Let’s go through the story. Mum is pregnant and riding on a donkey. Dad – well we’re not sure he is dad, but the less said about that, the better – leading the donkey. They get to the place where they’re going and can’t fin